It’s been an annual tradition for Edison Middle School band eighth graders: a band trip to a unique location over Spring Break.
On Wednesday night, 24 hours before its charter bus was to pull out of the school parking lot, Champaign Unit 4 Schools Superintendent Susan Zola announced that the district was suspending all district-sponsored travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Just as the students and parents were dropping off their luggage, band uniforms and instruments in the Edison cafeteria, parent volunteers and Edison Middle School band director Kimberly Branch made the announcement.
“… The district has cancelled all spring break field trips due to the Covid-19 virus. Our district will be working to provide more information regarding this,” Branch wrote in an email to parents announcing the cancellation. “This decision was not made lightly and we will provide more information as we receive it.”
Students and parents were left with more questions than answers, but mostly, a deep sense of frustration over the situation over which they have little control.
“It’s disappointing but I understand the need for it. We are going take this day by day,” said Amy Weber, a parent of an 8th grader and the jazz ensemble coordinator. “I feel bad for the hard work that was put into this trip especially by Ms. Branch and the parent volunteers.”
The band students spent three years raising funds to attend the trip, which cost each student roughly $800. The itinerary included classic New Orleans experiences such as eating beignets and Cafe du Monde in the French quarter. The band was scheduled to perform twice and participate in a concert band clinic at Loyola University New Orleans. In addition, the students were to enjoy a swamp tour, a tour of Mardi Gras World, and visit the renowned Jazz Museum.
The city of New Orleans announced cancellations of local events on Thursday, including St. Patrick’s Day parades.
The trip was scheduled through Brightspark Travel, a Chicago company that organizes group band travel. Some parents remained hopeful that the trip could be postponed and rescheduled for another time. The students raised roughly $40,000 to attend.
“We are hopeful that Brightspark will negotiate with the school district and we come to an amicable solution,” Weber said.
For more on COVID-19 and its impact in Champaign-Urbana, visit our COVID-19 resource.